The Quiet Places

Quiet. A quiet lane, quiet meadows, quiet woods… Somewhere above delicate falls the appeal of a lonely songbird punctuated the summer’s lazy recalcitrance. Somewhere above, beyond sun dulled gorse, swathes of scrambled bracken, somewhere up there the blushes of August eased across the moorside. Somewhere up there: a low pool in a slight vale, a tributary to the silent wood’s beck, in the very midst of flushing calluna, bursting erica, on a large smooth grey rock, sat a despondently naked girl, softly singing alluring songs of inconsequence amongst wild fronds bent over the abandoned pathway. Once, Heather, nymph of this glade had seduced shepherd’s boys to their end here, now she could only sing on, and on, alone, amongst her own blooms.

That’s the thing with quiet places, there’s always someone lonely hidden in their lonely depths. Of course, there are lonely people, lonely things, lonely places in the noisesome places, but those people are easy to find if you look. In a bar, filled with the screech of sweat, they’ll be found if the sight is keen enough; on a darkly terraced street blowing with the clatter of litter and roaring with unkempt hedges, behind the raucous curtains embracing a cacophony of the work bound, the creak of growing bones and the cry of desperate amorousness, they can be found, rather easily. The thing with the odour of noise in those places is that the lonely are ignored, hidden in plain sight, like the beggars, the ill, the elderly, no one wants to look, but they could be found, with just a tiny turn of a bus-bound head.

In the quiet places, no, in the quiet places that’s where the lonely are never found. Not the silent places: silent places are a respite, an escape, a haven, from the thrum of life in the noisy places. A silent place is the kitchen on a Sunday morning before the radio gurgles into life, a silent place is that fragment of wakefulness at five am before feet tiptoe from the duvet to middle aged relief and back again. A silent place can be found on a holiday after the picnic, when ice-creams are being bought. Silence can be found at the moment where spark plugs stop firing and the engine dies. Silence is a relief from all that noise. There’s delicious rest in silence, comfort, relief, a sensuous caressing eroticism of the nothing stroking your ears oh so briefly. That’s not the quiet places. They are truly lonely, for there, in the screaming ear torrent of true quiet, there the lonely won’t be found because no one can hear that they are there.

Heather’s place was quiet. A depth of quiet that had grown so rich it blanketed her song and burnt her with a crushing weight that the loudest foundry could never have done. There she would have found a protective bubble of silence to get her through. Here, the quiet crushed her by hours, days, seconds. Fragments of seconds roared their quiet at her, an unending screech permanently screaming her quiet at her. Her quiet loneliness.

The path had gone through here once, then there was silence, and she was content. The way across the moors with its packway steps past the falls following the hill’s undulations, dipping, rising, curving, the way across the moors passed here, and then she’d enjoyed the silence, knowing there would be passing souls. Weather and rain have eroded the way, she watched it fade quietly away, the grass creeping in through cracks and crevices, consuming the flag’s firm desire to be trodden. The bracken folded itself across the unused steeplings, groaning, bending, dying, rotting, covering, masking. The ice came, helped the grassy rootling’s work, cracked the depths of the stones to angles of unwelcoming randomness. The passerbys went and passed by elsewhere. Faster places. Quicker ways. Swifter, noisier, draftier, less welcoming, rumbling ways. Ways that took the silence, left her with quiet in which to sing alone.

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